Two Puna residents arrested for trespassing, placed golf clubs in lava

Arrested: Ruth Crawfort and Stephen Koch

Two Puna residents were arrested Thursday, October 30, for trespassing into a restricted area near active lava.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday, Hawaii County police responded to a report of two persons who were in the vicinity of an active lava flow located above Pāhoa town. Upon arrival, officers observed a man and a woman facing the flow within five feet of the lava and taking pictures.

They were in possession of two golf clubs that had a ball of hardened lava on the end.

Ruth Crawford, 65, of Ainaloa and Stephen Koch, 59, of Nānāwale were arrested for the offense of second-degree criminal trespassing.

KHON2 spoke to Crawford Thursday, before she was arrested. She carried an egg beater dipped in lava and told KHON2 they dipped 15 various items into the lava.

“As we were up there, we turned around and said, ‘Oh wow, this is coming all around us. We gotta get out of here,’ because it was circling around us,” she said. “It was very hot and I felt like my face was burning. It was really hot, but it was exciting and it was fun and adventurous. I know we’re not supposed to, but okay, I won’t again.”

The pair was on County of Hawaii property beyond a fence. The path of travel indicated they had crossed private property to reach the viewing location.

Officers later located a pickup truck and sports-utility vehicle in the Pāhoa Community Center parking lot registered to each arrested individual. Through the front windshield, officers observed household utensils dipped in lava on the dashboard.

Crawford and Koch were each charged with the offense and then released after posting $250 bail each.

“It’s unfortunate. We’d hope that we wouldn’t have to take steps to enforce the rules, that we would expect compliance from everyone. But unfortunately, like with anything else, rules exist and people break the rules and we do what need to do. We’re still asking for everyone’s cooperation,” said Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense.

“HVO does a great job explaining the hazards out there. For the scientists saying that they get jarred or startled by the explosion, that tells me that its concerning. For them to describe a section of ground that’s been upheaved or basically just displaced because of the explosion, is concerning. So that’s some of the reasons why we don’t want people out there on the flow front,” explains Oliveira on the dangers in the area.

Police encourage members of the public to report sighting of persons who may be trespassing near the active lava flow or in areas beyond police barricades.

Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Arrested: Ruth Crawfort and Stephen Koch
Arrested: Ruth Crawford and Stephen Koch

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